Alekhine, a world champion, has his name on the defense Nf6 in response to White's e4. But after e.g. 2. e5 Nd5 3.c4 Nb6 4. d4, White seems to have a good game.

Did Alekhine win any notable games (or tournaments) using this defense? Did he publish any books or papers successfully defending this line? What did he see as its merits?

  • 1
    1...Nf6 was certainly not Alekhine's standard response to 1.e4; he he usually replied 1...e5. You can see Alekhine responses to 1. e4 here: chessgames.com/perl/…. I think the opening is named after him because he was the first big player to use it, but I am not sure that even he himself considered best.
    – Akavall
    Feb 21, 2013 at 21:30
  • @Akakvall: OK, it seems like the "Alekhine Defense" was named after him almost "by accident," not because he used it a lot or was exceptionally successful with it. That's what I wanted to find out.
    – Tom Au
    Feb 23, 2013 at 20:20

2 Answers 2


You're right in that white seems to have a good game. But in reality, not much more than that. Black continues with 4. ...d6, and can go into many variations such as the optimistic, but shaky Four Pawns Attack with 5.f4, Exchange variation with 5.dxe6, where black can respond by taking with either pawn, and will usually follow up with a kingside fiancetto if he takes back with the c-pawn. Of course, there are other variations such as the Balogh, Two pawns attack, Two Knights variation, Scandinavian variation, Modern variation (perhaps the most challenging), etc. Look them up if you wish. Black's basic idea is to get white to over-extend his center, creating targets in the form of pawns and the weaknesses left in the pawns' wake, and then undermine those weaknesses with pieces. Again, white seems to have a good game because of the classic space advantage in the centre. BUT, that's black's plan - The Alekhine Defence is a hypermodern idea, so black voluntarily gives up the centre in the opening, just to challenge it later on from the sides.

According to chessgames.com, the Alekhine's Defence has a win rate of 33.4% for black, which is very, very respectable; especially when compared to other very highly respected openings such as the Caro Kann, French, Najdorf etc.

I don't know if Alekhine himself won tournaments using just this defence, but here are a few games where he successfully employed it against strong opponents: Bogoljubov, Maroczy, Mieses, and a lesser known, but still strong Sergeant. The last game is a famous positional crush featured in a book I have on the Alekhine Defence.

Besides Alekhine, many world champions have employed it throughout history, such as Capablanca, Euwe, Tal, Bronstein, Fischer (remember the famous Spassky vs.Fischer 1972 game?), Smyslov, Petrosian, Spassky, etc. Even Carlsen has employed it now and then as a surprise weapon. Check out Carlsen vs. Topalov.

To conclude, I don't think its possible for anyone to answer why Alekhine introduced this defence (if he did), and what merits he saw. However, he must have certainly judged it to be a playable opening that matched his style (aggressive). But as I've outlined, it has become a formidable surprise weapon over time, and is even used nowadays at the very top level in major tournaments.


The moves 1.e4 Nf6 were played before Alekhine (analyzed by Allgaier in 1819), but Alekhine popularized it. Alexander Alekhine first played this defense at Budapest in September 1921 against Saemisch and E. Steiner.

By May 1922 it was being called the Alekhine’s Defense by Sir George Thomas in the British Chess Magazine. Also in May 1922, Hans Fahrni wrote the first monograph on the opening, calling it Die Aljechin-Verteidigung.

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    As I've mentioned on other posts of yours before, please don't copy verbatim from somewhere else without attribution. It's plain not cool. chess.com/chessopedia/view/alekhines-defense
    – ETD
    Feb 21, 2013 at 23:51
  • @EdDean - I am trying to find the original source of it. I don't believe that is it.
    – xaisoft
    Feb 22, 2013 at 0:14
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    The fact that I care about the lifting of other people's words doesn't mean that I am anything less than perfectly chill. (I assure you, anyone who knows me would describe me as "robotic" long before "hot-headed.") I think my pointing this matter out is perfectly fair, because it's the kind of thing that shouldn't happen once, and despite your protestation above, you have in fact omitted attributions more than once before on this site. Off the top of my head, see revision 3 of chess.stackexchange.com/posts/726/revisions, and my comment to chess.stackexchange.com/a/1104/167.
    – ETD
    Feb 22, 2013 at 5:58
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    Which site you happened to see these words at was never my concern, and also completely irrelevant. I'd wager that neither of the sites we linked to were the true origin of these words either; unfortunately, it's hard to tell, precisely because of the lack of proper attribution by some other party. My only point in giving any link at all was that the post above clearly wasn't original, and that such things should be made clear. That's the sum total of my interest in the matter.
    – ETD
    Feb 22, 2013 at 6:42
  • 5
    I wrote both articles on Alekhine's Defense at geocities and at chess.com. It also comes from my book "500 Alekhine Miniatures."
    – user2459
    Feb 15, 2014 at 20:33

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